European Union governments met on Tuesday to discuss progress on a COVID-19 certificate to help citizens travel more freely across the 27-nation bloc and open up summer tourism.
While EU officials stress they will not discriminate against those who do not have a certificate, tourism-dependent countries such as Greece hope it will end the current patchwork of national rules, with agreement sought by the end of June.
A COVID certificate would be handed out for free by health authorities in EU countries to people who received a vaccine, had a negative test or are immune, having recovered from COVID.
No one will be obliged to use the EU certificate, the European Parliament says.
EU lawmakers are designing the certificate along with the European Commission and EU government negotiators. Portugal, which holds the EU’s rotating presidency, hopes for political agreement on the deal by the end of May to enable the certificate to be operational by June 21.
Negotiators must decide whether faster, but less accurate, COVID-19 antigen tests can be included in the certificate.
The European Commission proposes calling it the Digital Green Certificate. The European Parliament suggests it should be named the EU COVID-19 Certificate.
It is not a vaccine passport, officials say.
The certificate could be a paper or a digital document, with a QR code carrying encoded data that would be uploaded to the central system to allow verification in other EU countries through a single gateway.
EU countries can link their national vaccine records to a central system using a template provided by German developers.
EU negotiators must still agree if all vaccines can be considered for the certificate, or only those approved by the European Medicines Agency.
A dry run is due to start involving more than a dozen EU countries including France and Spain, while a full rollout of the system in all member states is planned in June.
Linking up non-EU countries to the system is technically possible if a political agreement is sealed this month and an equivalence decision granted by the EU to share data.